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Old 02-01-2011, 07:31 AM
37b 37b started this thread
1 posts, read 3,226 times
Reputation: 10


Hi all - first time poster so please let me know if this is the wrong area for this.

I've just had such a stressful ordeal and in order to keep my facts straight I wrote everything down right away. I have removed any specific details in order to post this to the forum. Apologies for the length.

January 24, 2011
I called COMPANY plumbing to fix slow draining tub. Initially was told it was $29 for the visit, but that fee would be applied to any work done.

January 25, 2011
Met with PLUMBER from COMPANY who began filling the tub and flushing the toilet to test for bubbles in the line. PLUMBER immediately suggested a possible break in the main sewage line. He asked if I had a cleanout. I said I just moved here so I didn’t know. PLUMBER assumed there was no clean-out, but did not look for one. He called home office to send a new truck with a rooter snake and a camera snake. He then began estimating the sewer pipe length by measuring the distance from the home to the curb. He phoned home office during this time and it was suggested he check the main sewer in the street.

We both walked over to the sewer cover and he said he can see water in there so he grabbed a stick and put it in a hole in the sewer cover. It came out wet so he came to the conclusion that the entire sewage system on the street was backing up. He told me to immediately call the county sewer emergency number and let them know the sewer was flowing over. While I was speaking with the county sewer co. PLUMBER went down to the neighbors down the street to warn them of a possible sewage backup into their homes. He wrote up a bill for $298.50 for diagnosis plus a $49 dollar dispatch fee. At the time I was shocked it was not $29 dollars as I understood on the phone, but the person who originally answered the phone had a very thick accent and was difficult to understand so I assumed I just misheard him. I gave PLUMBER my USAA Mastercard number to pay for the $347.00 (he mistakenly left off the additional $0.50).

A few minutes later the county sewer company trucks pulled up. I let them know what PLUMBER said was happening so they parked a truck at the two manholes my house resides between and started to take a look. One of the servicemen called me over and showed me the sewer was not overflowing at all, but appeared quite normal. He explained what the plumber probably saw was a bowl shaped covering that resides under the normal manhole cover to catch debris so that it does not fall into the sewer system.

Knowing the slow leak was definitely in my house I phoned PLUMBER back up, but received no answer. I then called COMPANY and let them know what had happened. They told me they would send someone out ASAP. A few minutes later PLUMBER returned my phone call and I told him what had happened. He said he would turn his truck around and meet me.

PLUMBER showed back up and talked to the county sewer team for a few minutes and saw for himself the sewer was working as normal. He then stepped in the house and called the home office to let them know we will again need a truck with a rotor snake and a camera snake to come out and find out what the problem is. He then wrote up what I thought was an estimate and had me sign in several places. He then took the estimate/contract and told me he would return later to give me my copy. I did not know what his reasoning for this was, but I was still in shock from his original assessment that we have broken sewer pipes that must be repaired at considerable cost. His first estimate for sewer main line replacement was 15 to 20 thousand dollars.

A few hours later PLUMBER2, PLUMBER3 and another gentlemen from COMPANY arrived and began pulling out their equipment. PLUMBER3 asked if I already paid for the work about to be done and I said I think I had because I assumed he was asking if PLUMBER had taken my credit card info, which he had.

PLUMBER2, who said he was PLUMBER’s manager, seemed frustrated that we did not have a contract here at the house and was on the phone with the home office for several minutes. He came back inside and told me he would write up a whole new bill and I would have to deal with PLUMBER and/or COMPANY management to have the second bill of unknown charges removed completely. The team had removed my toilet and tried to send the rotor snake through before sending the camera through. The team did not ask for access to a clean-out nor did they look for one. While attempting to clean out any possible damage the snake went up the vent pipe instead of into the sewer pipe. Because of this, the manager said they would need to snake from the vent pipe in the roof. He wrote up a bill including a $1500 charge for roof snaking and an additional $1189 for video scope. Again, not feeling I had any other choice I agreed to the charges. The team snaked down the vent pipe and removed a portion of root. They then video scoped the pipes and called me up on the roof to take a look for myself.

PLUMBER2 told me I had 3 main problems including a break in the line inside the house that would be easy to fix, a root intrusion which they removed, and a bellied pipe which must be corrected. He told me until we replace the main sewer line we could not throw any toilet paper into the toilet as it would build up in this bellied pipe area. He expressed several times that this was a major problem and I would need to dig up the yard to replace all of the main sewer line. He said the cost would be from $8,000 to $20,000 or more depending on how deep the pipes are.

While the team was wrapping up PLUMBER3 took my Discover credit card number to pay for the service. The manager said he would get back to me right away with an estimate as soon as he heard from the county as to how deep my sewer pipes were.

The team was friendly, but very unprofessional. Some examples of unprofessionalism:

The unnamed gentleman asked me if I had cigarettes he could smoke.
PLUMBER3 tracked mud throughout my house.
PLUMBER2 threw the soiled root at the unnamed gentleman when he wasn’t looking.

January 26, 2011
After speaking with my house inspector I called NEWCOMPANY for a second opinion. NEWCOMPANY informed me they do not charge for a visit or for video scoping my sewer line. I setup an appointment for the following day.

January 27, 2011
NEWPLUMBER from NEWCOMPANY showed up and I told him the situation. Immediately he seemed unsure that previous work done was on the level. He asked how much I paid the previous plumbing company and he was shocked. He brought in his video equipment to view the sewer line before attempting any repairs. He went through the video process with me and the first thing he noticed was the clean-out approximately 5 feet from house. He did not see any breaks in the pipes inside the house. He kept going down the sewer line and saw the root penetration that was removed by COMPANY plumbing. He kept going down the line and saw water backed up. We assumed this was the bellied portion, but he kept going down the line and saw more root infestation in the line. NEWPLUMBER told me he doesn’t see any reason to replace the pipes as of yet, but he wanted to clean them out entirely first. He then rotor-snaked the rest of the line (approximately 70 feet until the sewer line met with the county’s line. The line was undisturbed except for two areas of root intrusion and one slightly offset area. NEWPLUMBER showed me the offset area was not a problem because the water still flowed downward. He demonstrated this by turning on the faucet until water flowed over that area. The total charges for all of NEWPLUMBER’s service was $434 which included a new wax seal for the toilet.

NEWPLUMBER video recorded all of the lines prior to starting and included a date and time reference as well as my own image in the recording. This will be provided to me on a DVD free of charge.

I have put a dispute on my Discover card and have sent a letter to the BBB, but I am wondering if there are any other courses I should take. I know I don't want to hear it, but does anyone think that because I signed the invoices that I am just plain SOL and will have to pay it?
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Old 02-01-2011, 08:36 AM
Location: Woodbridge
265 posts, read 904,588 times
Reputation: 114
Unfortunately there are a lot of unprofessional contractors out there. We always recommend getting 2 or 3 estimates before signing anything when it comes to big jobs.
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Old 02-01-2011, 10:50 AM
2,733 posts, read 5,124,036 times
Reputation: 2302
I would discuss this with an attorney; maybe having him/her write a letter to company 1 would resolve it. You mayalso check to see if your county has a consumer affairs office who can help.
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Old 02-01-2011, 02:11 PM
9,733 posts, read 9,168,644 times
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Sending a letter to the BBB is a waste of time. They have no authority and are just a ratings service.
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Old 02-01-2011, 03:26 PM
5,390 posts, read 6,828,971 times
Reputation: 2852
Originally Posted by kevinm View Post
Sending a letter to the BBB is a waste of time. They have no authority and are just a ratings service.
It wasn't a waste of time for me when I had a dispute with a roofer. The owner of the company changed his tune in a hurry after I filed a complaint. Though it's true they have no authority and it depends whether the business cares or not.
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Old 02-01-2011, 06:07 PM
104 posts, read 198,189 times
Reputation: 47
Haven’t done this yet myself, but apparently it’s possible to file a complaint with BBB online-

BBB of Washington DC & Eastern PA: Home

I’ve been pretty lucky with service providers so far. Sometimes it's worthwhile to check out the Washington Consumers CHECKBOOK (requires a subscription)-

Washington Consumers' CHECKBOOK

The public library will probably have printed copies. Hope everything works out for you.
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Old 02-02-2011, 11:55 AM
102 posts, read 583,114 times
Reputation: 148
If you live in Virginia, you can make a complaint with the Board of Contractors: www.dpor.virginia.gov

A complaint with the Board of Contractors would probably be a lot more effective than the BBB.

If you agreed to the work, and they did what they said they were going to, I'm not sure you have much recourse.

Good luck.
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